Marketplace sells crafts, food, art

ajames@newsobserver.comMarch 30, 2013 

— Popular Internet craft sites like Etsy and Pinterest have inspired a new generation of craftmakers creating homemade clothes, jewelry, and art. Many of the wares are sold online, so items may travel across the country. But Christy Kenyon, a craftmaker herself, saw a need to keep the buying and selling local.

Last year, Kenyon bought a storefront in Clayton for vendors to sell items from, where they don’t have to pay for their own storefront. The shop, Unique Boutiques and Marketplace, on Anna Drive, off South Lombard Street, will be celebrating its one year anniversary next month.

“I like that I can just put my things there and I don’t have to stay there,” said Joy Forehand, a baker who sells her prized macarons at one of the stalls at the marketplace. She is the only baker selling French macarons, a colorful and trendy dessert, in Clayton. Forehand has been a vendor at the store since it opened.

“It’s like an indoor craft fair,” said Forehand.

The store has over 60 vendors who each rent a space.

“It’s like they have their own shop,” said Kenyon. Some of the items are Kenyon’s own creations, including intricate ribbons and bows, and serving trays made from recycled wine bottles. Kenyon said she used to sell her items at the flea market in Raleigh, but she was unable to keep up the extra work of being present at the market on Saturday and Sunday to stand with her items, after working all week at her day job. She wanted to provide flexibility to craftmakers.

“It’s really expensive for people to have their own storefront,” said Kenyon. “Here, they don’t have to pay any overhead.” The store gets its profit from the 15 percent commission charged to vendors and from rental fees.

Another vendor at the store, Amy Cradle, who sells gently used clothing and used items at her stall, said she likes the marketplace because she likes coming over to the shop and managing her space as a hobby. She operates the space, called “Four Sisters,” with her sister Karen Kenley.

Products range from homemade children’s clothes, to decorative holiday wreaths, essential oils, alternative medicine, handcrafted quilts, furniture and food.

“There’s a lot of talented people that produce a lot of great products that a love of people need to know about,” said Kenyon. “This is truly supporting small businesses.”

Along with serving as a storefront, Unique Boutiques and Marketplace also holds a craft fair twice a year, and networking nights for local artisans to meet new people.

Most of the owners do craftmaking as a hobby and have other jobs, as well.

Since there’s not the same risk of opening up their own shop, the marketplace gives vendors a chance to see how their products are received by the community.

A place for a new start

Forehand, who sells baked goods, said she started baking a year ago after losing her job. In her struggle to find the answer to the common question, “What am I going to do now?” she decided to pursue a passion she had always had.

“I was thinking of starting an actual bakery, but there was too much risk,” said Forehand. “I thought this was a good way to test the waters to see if there’s an interest in having a French baker in Clayton.” She said the business has gone well for her. Even though Internet sales are becoming a more popular way to sell crafts, she said the majority of her business is from the marketplace. She is still interested in opening a bakery in the future.

Another vendor, Bobbie Asad, said she also got her start as a vendor during a period of unemployment. Asad makes ornate hats that she sells out of the shop. She said she was trying to come up with something to do since she lost her job, and creating hats became her new passion. The profits from the hat sales were not enough to replace a full-time job, but it was an outlet for her creativity, and some income to help in the transition. Now that she has a part-time job, she goes into the marketplace once a week to manage her stall.

Unique Boutiques and Marketplace is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

James: 919-553-7234

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